Full text of "Sonnets"
H. CORDELIA RAY
By H. CORDELIA RAY
Press of J. J. Little & Co.
Astor Place, New York
To MY MOTHER, . . . .7
Life, ....... 9
Aspiration, . . . . . . n
Incompleteness, . . . . -13
Self-mastery, . . . . . -15
NiOBE, .... . . -I?
The two musicians, . . . . ■ ^9
The poet's ministrants, . . . .21
Milton, . . . . . . 23
Shakespeare, . . . . . -25
Raphael, . . . . . .27
Beethoven, . . . . . .29
TO MY MOTHER.
JANUARY I, 1891.
Sweet Mother ! rare in gifts of tenderness !
Thou who didst nurse my child-life into bloom,
And for each native grace made ample room
To blossom in love's light, — how can we bless
The Power that gave thee to us ! In the stress
Of life's great conflict, what could e'er illume
Its mystic shadows and its deepest gloom,
Like smiles and loving words from thee ! No less
Than widest sunshine is thy sympathy.
O precious Heart ! so rich in sacrifice.
And — boon beyond compare — supremest
May Heaven's choicest blessings rest on thee.
Rarer than jewels of the costliest price !
And Peace brood o'er thy path like calmest
Life ! Ay, what is it ? E'en a moment spun
From cycles of eternity. And yet,
What wrestHng 'mid the fever and the fret
Of tangled purposes and hopes undone !
What affluence of love ! What vict'ries won
In agonies of silence, ere trust met
A manifold fulfillment, and the wet,
Beseeching eyes saw splendors past the sun !
What struggle in the web of circumstance,
And yearning in the winged music ! All,
One restless strife from fetters to be free ;
Till, gathered to eternity's expanse,
Is that brief moment at the Feather's call.
Life ! Ay, at best, 'tis but a mystery !
We climb the slopes of life with throbbing heart,
And eager pulse, like children toward a star.
Sweet siren music cometh from afar,
To lure us on meanwhile. Responsive start
The nightingales to richer song than Art
Can ever teach. No passing shadows mar
Awhile the dewy skies ; no inner jar
Of conflict bids us with our quest to part.
We see adown the distance, rainbow-arched,
What melting aisles of liquid light and bloom !
We hasten, tremulous, with lips all parched.
And eyes wide-stretched, nor dream of com-
Enough that something held almost divine
Within us ever stirs. Can we repine ?
What soul hath struck Its meed of melody,
From life's strange instrument whereon it
Are the aspiring strains of weary days
E'er gathered in their full intensity,
Swelling a psalm incomparable, free
To utter all their yearning ? Nay ! the lays
Moan on inadequately, for the ways
Of God in shaping souls we may not see.
Mid baffled hopes we cry out in our need,
And wrestle in the shadows, wond'ring when
Such dissonance can e'er be sweet, and how.
But soon the watching Father will have freed
Our earthly ears to catch the music : then
The chrism of perfect peace shall bathe
To catch the spirit in its wayward flight
Through mazes manifold, what task supreme !
For when to floods has grown the quiet stream,
Much human skill must aid its rage to fight ;
And when wild winds invade the solemn night,
Seems not man's vaunted power but a dream ?
And still more futile, ay, we e'en must deem
This quest to tame the soul, and guide aright
Its restless wanderings, — to lure it back
To shoals of calm. Full many a moan and
Attend the strife : till, effort merged in
Oft uttered, clung to — when of strength the lack
Seems direst — brings the answer to our cry :
A gift from Him who lifts our ev'ry care.
O MOTHER-HEART ! when fast the arrows flew,
Like blinding lightning, smiting as they fell,
One after one, one after one, what knell
Could fitly voice thy anguish ! Sorrow grew
To throes intensest, when thy sad soul knew
Thy youngest, too, must go. Was it not well,
Avengers wroth, just one to spare ? Ay, tell
The ages of soul-struggle sterner? Through
The flinty stone, O image of despair,
Sad Niobe, thy maddened grief did flow
In bitt'rest tears, when all thy wailing prayer
Was so denied. Alas ! what weight of woe
Is prisoned in thy melancholy eyes !
What mother-love beneath the Stoic lies !
THE TWO MUSICIANS.
Love plays a lute, and Thought an organ grand
These tones are stately, those a restless strain,
Seeming by cadenced joy to measure pain,
And capture Fancy by the soft airs fanned.
Thought sends his paeans thrilling through the
The worshipers that bow before his fane
Find rest in contemplation, spirit-gain
In sweetest harmonies. Yon rapturous band,
Kneeling to catch the music of the lute,
Have yearning in their eyes, yet something
That baffles all our reas'ning ; is it peace,
Or only glances with beseeching mute?
Sometimes it deepens into holy prayer.
Enchanted Love ! thy music never cease !
THE POETS MINISTRANTS.
The smiling Dawn, with diadem of dew,
Brings sunrise odors to perfume his shrine;
Blithe Zephyr fans him, and soft moonbeams
An aureole to crown him, of a hue
Surpassing fair. The stately stars renew
Majestic measures, that he may incline
His soul unto their sweetness ; whispers fine
From spirit-nymphs allure him ; not a few
The gifts chaste Fancy and her sisters bring.
Rare is the lyre the Muses for him wrought,
A different meaning thrills in ev'ry string,
With ev'ry changing mood of life so fraught.
Invoked by him, when such the strains that flow,
How can the poet eer his song forego!
O POET gifted with the sight divine !
To thee 'twas given Eden's groves to pace
With that first pair, in whom the human race
Their kinship claim : and angels did incline —
Great Michael, holy Gabriel — to twine
Their heavenly logic, through which thou
The rich outpourings of celestial grace
Mingled with argument, around the shrine
Where thou didst linger, vision-rapt, intent
To catch the sacred mystery of Heaven.
Nor was thy longing vain : a soul resolved
To ponder truth supreme to thee was lent ;
For thy not sightless eyes the vail was riv'n.
Redemption's problem unto thee well solved.
We wonder what the horoscope did show
When Shakespeare came to earth. Were
Grouped In unique arrangement ? Unaware
His age of aught so marvelous, when lo !
He speaks ! men listen ! what of joy or woe
Is not revealed ! love, hatred, carking care,
All quiv'ring 'neath his magic touch. The air
Is thick with beauteous elves, a dainty row.
Anon, with droning witches, and e'en now
Stalks gloomy Hamlet, bent on vengeance
One after one they come, smiling or scarred,
Wrought by that mind prismatic to which bow
All lesser minds. They by thee would be fed,
Poet incomparable ! Avon's Bard !
Great Painter ! to thy soul aglow with thought,
Celestial forms their glory did reveal.
Not unrewarded wast thou left to kneel
At Beauty's sacred altar ; not for naught
Thy gift of consecration hadst thou brought.
We see thee pensive, radiant, and there steal
Soft shadows, mystic lights ; th' angelic seal
Is on thy dreamy brow ; thy soul hath caught
The essence of the harmony it craved.
Behold the Mother and the Child Divine !
What rapt repose ! what majesty serene !
Thy spirit tuned to contemplation, laved
In founts of light. For thee we would entwine
The asphodel bright with celestial sheen.
O GREAT tone-master ! low thy massive head
Droops, heavy with the thoughts that fain
Themselves in interlacing chords, that leave
Sublimest music. Inspiration sped
On dainty pinions to thy natal bed,
And warbling notes did all the silence cleave
As for a benediction ; well believe
The votaries that hie where thou hast led,
In thy supreme endowment. Who as well
Can wake the Orphic echoes ? Thou dost
And harmony, the sweetest, is evolved.
In grave sonatas rich with surging swell.
In matchless symphonies — but thou couldst
The mystery of music thou hast solved.
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